I've had interesting rodent encounters in the last 24 hours, so I am going to share them. My working title for this post was "Wet Beaver Photos," but I thought better of it. Obviously I didn't think better of it enough not to mention it in this paragraph.
The chickadees have stopped coming around to my feeder as much as they were in December and January. I cannot explain this. Either they like Judie's feeder better (it is the most-visited in the neighborhood by all the birds), or they are all dead. I hope they are alive somewhere. Meanwhile, the interloper has made herself at home:
With the warm temperatures and the issues of a fair amount of snow, the reluctance of the bentonite clay to absorb moisture, and the fact that Medora is a giant floodplain, there is quite a bit of standing water around. Just on the west side of town there is a horse pasture that has a small prairie dog town near the walking/biking trail.
Lastly, I saw a beaver swimming along in the flowing river. It sort of swam around in circles and swirled around with the flowing water for a few minutes while I took pictures. Then it dove underwater and I left.
Just yesterday, I was talking to a fellow (who shall remain safely anonymous) about a variety of topics. We talked about B-52s and missile silos, various coffee growing regions of the world, and his cabin on a private lake in ND that he was planning on retiring to in a couple years. It sounded awesome. We talked about the bear that lived there, weasels, moose, and forest management practices. Then he told me he "shoots beavers on sight" and at one point "had a stack nine beavers high" that stunk something awful until it disappeared (I suggested the bear). Now, I can see how beavers might be problematic if they were going to flood an area that contained your house, but what harm can they really cause? They eat wood. This guy was busy "cleaning" his forest to reduce fuels. Hey, I think I know a critter that will be happy to share the workload!
Now to respond to Bruce's comments from yesterday's post.
I had some pictures of the ice blocks near the campground, but the photos didn't really portray it the way I experienced it. I went down and got what I thought was a better picture today west of Medora. The bridge is Interstate 94. The river has gone down several feet, as you can see.
Chunks of ice floated onto the riverbanks and got left there as the river flooded slightly last week, then subsided. It's still quite high. The NOAA monitoring station in Medora is kaput for the moment.
For the question about bluebirds, there are in fact three species of bluebirds in North America: the Eastern, Western, and Mountain bluebirds. Each is a distinct species with somewhat different coloration and, most remarkably, different preferences for habitat. Eastern bluebirds like tallgrass prairie parklands with sparse trees. Western bluebirds actually prefer woodland habitats and are less common overall than the other two species. Mountain bluebirds are found in the shortgrass prairies of the west and throughout the Rocky Mountains. If you saw a bluebird in Theodore Roosevelt, it was probably a Mountain bluebird.
In 2007, I worked on a project at Quarry Hill Nature Center in Rochester, MN to track the nesting status of bluebirds there. Actually, it was immediately before I started this blog. I kept track of 12-14 nesting boxes 2-3 times a week for 3 months. In short, there was a constant interplay between the chickadees, house wrens, and bluebirds as they competed for nesting locations that was kind of dramatic. As soon as I would assume what I was going to find, I'd find a different bird had taken over the nest and remade it to its liking. There was also a constant drama of egg clutches being destroyed, and the dozen times that I went to open up a bird box and took a chickadee to the face. Then, one day, I opened up the box and there were little bluebird chicks that had just hatched. They were so fragile and ugly. I use a picture of them in one of my interpretive programs.
As for pheasants and other small critter life and how they have gotten on through the winter, it is difficult for me to say. We saw lots of pheasants during the Christmas Bird Count. I see roadside pheasants much of the time, but, unfortunately, I can't say scientifically whether the populations have changed significantly. Last winter/early spring, I scared a pheasant out of the grass while walking to the visitor center a couple times and nearly had to go change my pants. That hasn't happened yet. Last spring, the amorous rooster pheasant started calling constantly around April, if I remember right, so we'll see if that picks up again. The landscape is certainly not devoid of pheasants, grouse, or larks at the moment.
You will hear a lot more about birds from me as the migrants start passing through.